EMBRACING THE LURE OF SIMPLE IN MIDLIFE
It's no coincidence that the lure of simple was one of the overriding mindsets I begun to experience on the road to fifty and midlife. Funnily enough, I remember my approach to forty and if I look back and examine my mindset then, it was probably about wanting more, not less. Be more, do more, be fabulous (whatever that meant), acquire more stuff, lead a life full of excitement and glamour whenever you can. I suspect that feeding myself a diet of Sex And The City and Gossip Girl boxsets in my thirties is more than partially responsible for this!
Creating the then incarnation of Online Stylist which I first named Forty Not Out, enabled me to live out my own little slice of all of that. I got to dabble in a world of events, places, clothes and parties I never dreamed I'd have access to. And I don't have a single regret about any of it - it was a joyous part of the journey. A journey that I worked hard to become a part of and never took for granted.
But back to the approach of the next chapter and I find myself pretty much in a complete U-turn. Simplicity is both a lifestyle and a state of mind and for me it feels like the perfect fit for this life stage. It makes fifty and beyond feel as exciting and refreshing as forty. Even if it comes along with an occasional whisper of "Don't forget, time is precious... use it wisely." In order to use it wisely I need space to breath, absorb and re-evaluate as often as I can. Which means I'm no longer inclined to spend time dealing with anything that causes mental clutter. I know what I want and what I don’t want. What I want is calm... and a lot less chaos.
Whatever the decade, we're never done with the learning or the yearning for calm, but it’s ironic that it seems it's this point in life when things can become a bit more chaotic. Children become teens... and that one I can honestly say is a lot more chaotic than I ever imagined! Your body, hormones and therefore mind too, begin undergoing all kinds of changes that you'd never really grasped before. But a grasp is what you'd better get on them, and quick… or you'll find they're in the driving seat with you as the bemused passenger, feeling like you’re just tagging along for the ride.
And If you haven't already, it's now that you might suffer deep, aching personal loss. Loss that teaches you things you didn't want to learn, but in time, come to realise they're the things that go to make up the very fabric of life. So is it any wonder that the idea of simplicity at this point in life seems so appealing?
My own pressing need for it began to bubble away under the surface a couple of years ago and has slowly trickled outward into as many physical tributaries of life as possible. Home, wardrobe, work, wellbeing, relationships, holidays... you name it, I'd like it served up simply please.
Clutter at home feels like it might suffocate on a bad day. To be able to walk into a room that feels calm brings me happiness and I hear the silent words "Now I'm home" echo around my head. My particular calm just happens to come in every shade of white, beige, black or grey - they're the hues that let me breathe. If your balm is one of bright colours and riotous pattern, paint it your way and paint it now.
The idea of standing in front of a wardrobe that contains a lot less than it has this past decade but is filled with everything I would wear in a heartbeat, fills me with joy. It's not a shallow thing to say you enjoy dressing in the morning. The fabric and forms we lay next to our skin and wrap around our bodies should make us ecstatically happy and be an expression of who we are.
And if that means I look like I should actually just get on and move into COS or ARKET then so be it.
To bring freedom to my work in terms of the why, the when, the how and the creativity sounds like a luxurious and perhaps far fetched notion. But really, it isn't too much of a distant reality if I listen in to what my heart is telling me, if I ask myself the right questions... and give truthful answers in return. If I mull things over a while rather than jumping straight in with my usual knee-jerk reaction, I believe it's doable.
When it comes to physical wellbeing, I don't always get the self-care thing right. Who does? I know I'm not alone in sharing that I sometimes allow those chaotic life events to hop back into the driving seat. Thinking that seeking solace in another glass of wine is the answer. Or hurriedly completing the online food shop without giving over any time to meal planning that would facilitate healthier choices. Or burying my head in work when actually, stepping away and going for a walk might serve me better. But I think being kind to yourself also means recognising the pressure you're currently under and not berating yourself for the things you could be doing better.
Be kind but be firm. Make small changes, one step at a time but make them soon. The most powerful words I recently read were from an Instagram account called @thelifeonpurposemovement…
"And then she realised that a fresh start was hers for the taking. That she could be the woman she's always seen on the distant horizon - her future self. One step at a time. Starting today."
All of these things aren't actually that simple when you come to think of it... and whilst simple sounds alluring, it doesn't happen overnight. It's a work in constant progress and it doesn't have a final goal or an end. I can start today… and I can start again tomorrow if need be. In any case, I'm finding the journey a lot calmer.